In dealing with Borges, Paz and Realism today in Contemporary Fiction we got to thinking about the things that happen to readers when they read. There’s something in Borges’ “The Garden of Forking Paths” that without the author knowing it, points directly to me (my birth date). It could be any number of things, by the way. Because when I read I remember a lot of things: how to read, for example. What “the” means, is another. Reading is always a referencing act that happens “automatically,” as long as my awareness of the world is sound.
If the author mentions a green chair, this I can visualize to make sense of the text. If the author claims that Yu Tsun flees because he knows that Richard Madden is on his trail, then I understand and trust the cause and effect plotting of the story. When I read, therefore, I’m working with two texts or mutiple texts: the story or the photograph and the “experiences” that I’ve made in life. This is a smooth operation, typically.
This is why conventions are important. I read a story by turning pages is a technological convention. A newspaper is a technology, a physical innovation in how I gather info on Sudan. But the online newspaper or news site, such as BBC, operates differently. I don’t turn pages at the online Times: I click and I scroll. As a teacher, I have to think about these conventions as I write up a lecture for an online course, where a student must work with different and often confusing conventions.
But there are conventions that we can apply to a digital space: architectural ones, for example. The new media students are off mapping choice spaces (hopefully): malls, churches, and more. We want them to map a space and study it so that they connect the dots. I walk through the mall looking for shoes.
As I walk the path, something unexpected happens: I see a cool-looking “something” in another “space” within the larger “space” of the mall (Amazon or WebMD). But I don’t click on it, I enter, ask, then leave, and as I leave I try to remember what I’d come for. Then I smell that “chicken” and I’m off on another path, whose width should accommodate all those others doing the same. And the story goes on.
In architectonics, how does the purpose of a space guide the hand of the architect; how might the purpose make for innovation, licence, or an augmenting of experience by playing with convention, other ways of connecting the human senses to some collection of materials. (Built space is “memorial space.”)
This is the poet’s job too, though, the materials for her being “symbols.” And the story writer who constructs an “experience” that acts on the reader differently than the more immediate mall or church. A mall is a labyrinth, as is a poem and a short story. Or this.